Developing and employing contemporary skills is something our students continue to do as a core component of their education at St John’s. This includes with digital tech and the devices students use at school are to enable greater scope with their learning than ever before. They allow students to collaborate, communicate, think critically on information and create in relevant and new ways.
To support the appropriate use of such technology we have policies in place. Further to this, the teachers that share the challenge of working with our 11-15 year olds see the daily reality of appropriate (as well as occasional distracting) use. The answer to some of the challenges that we observe some students facing with using technology, as tempting as it may be in the short-term, is not to ban them. Rather, it is about learning and we the teachers to do what we do best and help the students with this. This means:
- we establish and consistently reinforce how to use the device, when to use it and what for…being active, getting involved, asking the questions, insisting on on-task behaviour and use;
- phones are not to be used in class unless approved by the teacher (that may be for learning, to contact a parent as sport pick-up arrangements have changed during the day or perhaps to search for information or look up their calendar). If a student strays from this, and they’ve been supported and have still made this choice, it will be taken away and returned at the end of the day; and
At St John’s, we regularly educate students on having a positive and respectful online footprint, and about safe online behaviours. Middle School students participate in a range of Cyber Safety initiatives. All students participate in IT classes in Year 7. They receive targeted cyber safety training – from appropriate communication, how to manage time spent on ICTs, cyberbullying, digital footprints and virus protection. In Year 8 Health and Personal Development, students consider bullying, cyberbullying and cyber safety as part of the curriculum. The School also has a clear policy on Social Networking and use of the School’s Network.
Again, at home and outside of school, as it is at school, the sustainable answer is not banning but about learning, support and guidelines aimed at striking a balance that works for your child, your family – a balance with screen time, gaming, social media – so that wellbeing is not eroded and perhaps even enhanced through information and connections. The educational process around digital technology can also be modelled at home. There are multiple websites that can assist students and parents to understand the latest developments and recommendations. The resources available at cybersmart.gov.au and thinkuknow.org.au are comprehensive and easy to navigate. It can be a great starting point for family discussions.
To assist with the discussion, here is a summary of the recommendations for students and parents from the CyberSmart website:
- Think before you post, chat, upload or download
- Protect your privacy – know how to change privacy settings on social networks and do not tell people your password.
- Once you post something, you cannot take it back. Keep all contributions appropriate as if they were face to face.
- Do not share or post images and video without the permission of those involved.
- Sexting is illegal – possessing images of an explicit nature is a Police matter. Delete any such images immediately and do not distribute them.
- Do you know whom you are talking to? Make sure all your cyber friends are friends in real life.
- Do not use a webcam with people you do not know.
- If you are bullied online, take ‘screenshots’ of the inappropriate content and let an adult know.
- Cybersmart has confidential support and advice on their website
For Parents: There are many resources that can assist with understanding cyber issues for your children, including general guidance on striking a balance. I am happy to recommend the parent section of the Federal Government’s eSafety site to you: https://www.esafety.gov.au/education-resources/iparent. I encourage you to talk with your children, as we do at school, about digital technology use, what they are doing online, having a balance…being healthy.
I must say, the students of the Middle School have made a very good start to the year with regard to their use of digital technology and their online footprint.
Head of Middle School